Saturday, June 29, 2019

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Barndominium?

I have been going back and forth on whether to write this post as it can vary so much and can sometimes be a touchy subject. But enough people have asked to prompt me to go through with it. As such I am only posting this on a couple of Facebook Barndominium sites and not the RV sites I usually post on.

As I said each of these costs can vary from person to person based on location and personal tastes but this is brief overview of our experiences. Keep in mind that since we are doing all the labor ourselves these figures do not include any labor whatsoever. So here is our experience over the past year or so here in South Dakota. ….

Water – In our area we had the choice of trying to dig a well, hooking up to rural water or installing a cistern. Wells in this area can be hit and miss. A few miles away wells are no problem and wells hit water rather quickly but in our particular area we were warned that if we tried to dig a well we could end up with a very deep, very dry, very expensive hole for a fence post so this option was off the table very quickly.

Our second option was to hook up to rural water which runs right past our place at the road. While considering this option our first consideration was cost. It costs $2,500 for the connection and then a per foot charge to dig a trench and lay the waterline to the house. Since we are about ¼ mile off the road we knew this was going to be costly. On top of that there is a $90/month charge whether you used an ounce of water or not. Then there is a charge for every gallon over your first 80 gallons each month. Given the fact that only planned to be here ½ the year we would be paying $90 a month for nothing.

Our last option was to install a cistern. This was the most popular method prior to the rural water being installed. Homeowners would install cisterns of 1,000 gallons or more, buy a 250 gallon or so water tank that fit in the back of a truck or trailer and drive to town to one of the several water fill stations and will their tanks at a cost of .01/gallon. The upside of this option is that is it much cheaper and you only pay for what you use. The obvious downside is the hassle of having to get your own water.

Living in our RV the past 6 years we were very used to using as little water as we could so the fact that we had limited water did not scare us and the cost appealed to us so we went with this option. The 2,000 gallon cistern installed was $2,500 and found a local water guy who will fill it for .08/gallon. So far it looks like 2,000 gallons will last us the year while we live in our RV during the build. Even if we double or triple that when the house is built we are money ahead.
Cistern installed October of 2017
There are not sewer systems in this area so the only option in this area were mound systems or a conventional drain field. Since our area perc’ed for a conventional system, we went with that option at a cost of $4,500.
Sewage Tank (Oct '17)

Line from tank to drainfield


Site Prep
This was a challenging area for us as we were at the complete mercy of the excavator. We knew we needed quite a bit of work to make that area we wanted to build stable enough and flat enough so we got a couple bids.
Kevin and I clearing the site (Summer of '17)
One bid was over $10,000 and the other bid was $2,500. You can guess which bid we went with. The job ended up being a lot tougher than expected due to all the rock. They had to bring a chisel for the excavator and chip away at the rock. They got the build site where it needed to be but were not able to get the approach to the garage we level as we would like it without blasting so we put that on the back burner for a while. In the end it ended up being a little over $2,500 but less than $3,000

We had two options here. Having power lines run to the build site or install solar. Since we have solar on our rig we were quite familiar with the in’s, out’s and costs of solar. We knew either were going to be expensive. Being so far off the road certainly was not going to help the cost of running power lines. When we contacted the power company to get a cost he suggested that we contact the owner of an abandoned cattle corral a few hundred yards from our build site and see if we could jump off his power poles to get power to our site. The owner lived in Germany but he did give us permission saving us thousands of dollars. The initial cost was $9,300 but we received $3,500 of that back when we started building.
Power Pole in!
We are doing the interior wiring in two weeks. So far I have $2,000 in materials. Barb and I pulled the main service wire from the meter to the house the other day. This was not easy but not overly difficult. We had to push 4/0, 4/0, 2/0 wire through 150’ of 3” conduit!
Got the house side done!

Finished the meter side this afternoon
Having never done this before I was a little nervous flipping the main breaker back on so I asked Barb to flip the meter breaker while I hid around the corner and watched. No sparks, no flames, it actually worked!

Our son Forrest who is an electrician is coming out to do the labor so add in a case of beer (or two) and that will be done!

Concrete work
I forget what I paid for plumbing pipes but I don’t think it was more than a few hundred dollars and thanks to my neighbor Doug who is a licensed plumber and inspected my work I know everything will flow downhill!
This is the first area that we started saving money and using our own labor. First let me say if it weren’t for our friend Kevin we would have never been able to do any of the labor savings items throughout the rest of this post. We did all of our own concrete work. Installing the forms, as well as pouring the 30’x88’ pad. The cost of the concrete was a little over $9,000.
Foam and in-floor heat in and ready for concrete!

A day later we had concrete!
Again thanks to Kevin, he taught us how to build and frame walls and inspected our work after each phase. We used a local lumber yard for our building materials, the total cost of lumber to frame in the building at about $14,000. This is probably a couple thousand dollars more than we would have spent going to a discount lumber yard but the local yard delivered, took back everything we did not use and we did not have to run back and forth to Rapid City over an hour away. Money well spent.  

We got a couple bids for trusses, about $10,000 for the house and porch trusses. Both the trusses and floor system came with detail drawings making them easier (easier being a relative term) to install.

There are so many options when it comes to windows/sliders. We had bids as low as $10,000 and a high of $30,000. Since Kevin had built over 100 homes he knows windows and guided us towards Marvin Integrity and since windows really make the house we went with windows that would help highlight the views. The total for the windows was just short of $20,000 with the 12’slider and traps being about 1/3 of that cost. We did not go crazy with exterior doors, we spent about $1000 on the three exterior doors. With luck we will have all the exterior doors in by the end of next week.
Front door ready to go in..
We also ordered two 12'x14' overhead doors that are supposed to arrive next week. The cost of the two doors, openers and installation came to a little over $3,700 each. The neighbor down the road has the exact same doors and Barb was nice enough to pose with them.....

Roofing and Siding
Again so many options here. Our goal going into this project was “maintenance free” so we decided to go with an all steel roof and steel/stone for the siding and aluminum soffits. Although we have not started this phase of the project yet, if the costs stay close to the bid amounts it should come in right around $17,000. We are using Bridger Steel out of Rapid City, they had competitive pricing and a lot of good ideas. Click the link above to see some of the many pictures of previous installs.

Whew, just writing about all this work makes me tired. It is hard to say how much we have saved in labor but it is safe to say it was significant. Some in the know say you could pretty much double your material costs and that is what we saved. We are very grateful to have Kevin helping us along the way and the dozen or so friends who have stopped by with their helping hands over the past few months.

Our hope is to have the steel on the roof before the first snow flies and with luck the siding done before spring. As far as the rest of the project, we don’t want to push it, we don’t plan on getting off the road anytime soon so if it takes us 4-5 years to completely finish the inside, that is fine with us!

I hope this gives an insight for those of you who were wondering.  We have not taken the time to add all these up, I probably don't want to know but there is a lot of satisfaction in the fact that we are doing it ourselves and saving a lot of money in labor. Kevin arrives sometime today for a week long visit. We will be hitting his house pretty hard as it has not have any substantial work on it since late March, it is going to be a busy week!

We would love to hear your thoughts, experiences or comments. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Our First Trip in our New (to us) Lance Truck Camper!

Our much anticipated maiden voyage in our truck camper was fast approaching and Barb was spending the day before our adventure getting it ready. Bedding, food, you name it. I on the other hand worked in the house and basically stayed out of her way, something I learned is for the best when she is in this mode.

I woke up with a slight sore throat but attributed it sleeping with the window open in the cool wet weather. The next morning I again woke up with a sore throat and some congestion….oh oh. But off we went….. first stop one of our favorite campgrounds and fishing spots Ditch Creek Campground near Deerfield Lake.  
Away we go!
This campground was a pretty much annual stop for us prior to our land purchase and we were looking forward to staying here like reuniting with an old friend. Another reason we were looking forward to visiting this campground was the fact that our friends Guy and Sue were also there! Yes, that Guy and Sue who had left our property a couple of weeks ago with plans to head north to Medora and beyond. But they loved this area so much they decided to stay for not only a few more weeks but it looks like they may be here for a few more months!
After lunch the four of us jumped in our Jeep and went to check out another campground/fishing area. It rained pretty much the entire time as we made our way to Castle Peak campground. It is a very secluded campground requiring high clearance vehicles as it is several miles down a rather rough road.
We met these guys on our way to the campground.....
… and pushed them for about a mile before it was wide enough for them to get off the road
Definitely not big rig friendly but a great campground for a pick up or tent campers. We did not get any pictures due to the rain but we did fish for about 30 minutes. No luck.

The next morning Guy and I were up bright and early to head to our favorite fishing hole. It did not disappoint and I was able to land several nice size rainbows but Guy took the trophy with a nice rainbow around 17”s!

 After lunch and an hours rest we were ready for our next adventure which was  a combo ATV/Jeep ride. Guy and Sue in their buggie while Barb and I were in the Jeep.
We were in search of the infamous “Ice Cave” known to be in the area. It took some hunting and pecking but we eventually found the cave.

Here it is mid-June and this cave still had ice in it!
This picture was of the roof of the cave
Still ice on the floor of the cave as well
You just never know what you are going to find hidden in the hills......

The next day it was time for us to move on to our next location but as we were packing up I noticed it...…. a flat tire. Ugh! Not a fun thing on a normal day but having the camper on the truck added another element. I pumped it up enough with our portable air compressor so we could move to a more level site then we had to take the camper off so I could access the crank to lower the spare from under the truck. Once that was done, I loosened the lug nuts and jacked up the truck.
The next challenge was that the old tire would not come off! Pry, pull and pound I could not get the duallys to separate! I have a big pry bar in our big rig but not on this trip. 20 minutes later Barb walked over to another camper to see if they have anything that would help and she comes back with a wedge for splitting wood. I put it between the two tires, pound it a few times and finally they come apart. I quickly (ok, maybe not so quickly) change the tire and we are back on the road. 

Since Barb did not get out fishing yet we stopped by Ditch Creek for an hour so Barb could catch a few trout.
Our next destination is a boondocking spot 70 miles up the road down Spearfish Canyon. There were two spots that Barb had her eye on and when we got there one of them was open so we slid in and set up for the night. I spent the day in the camper while Barb walked around the area with the dogs looking for potential fishing areas for the future. There are dozens of sites like this scattered throughout the National Forest in the hills.

Still not feeling we and Barb getting tired of being cooped up with me in the camper we decided to cut our trip short. But not before stopping by the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery. We love stopping by hatcheries, besides the fact that it is interesting to see how different hatcheries operate, we love seeing big trout!

Me and one of our grandaughters one day......
Since we were already near Rapid City and needed to get some materials for the house we decided to spent the next night in the Cabela's parking lot and get to Menards early the next morning. We did of course go in and walk through the store where I was able to show Barb the spotting scope that she could buy me any day now.....

Overall, although the trip did not go exactly as hoped but we did learn a few things about the camper:
It does not have vent covers so you need to close the vents in case it rains when you are out to   dinner (guess how we learned that one!)
  • It does not look like having the two dogs will be an issue as Dakota found a home under the dining table and just lays there
  • It is no fun not feeling well in such tight quarters
  • The freezer holds ice cream! (our big rig freezer does not)
  • There is a lot more storage than we expected
  • We need to put carpet on the outside stairs as Dakota got a paw nail stuck in one of the holes
Dakota's spot under the table
Now back home, we will be back in building mode as Kevin and Cheryl come out in a week and our son Forrest comes out the following week to help us wire the building! 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Meeting Blogger Friends

One of the weird things about fulltime RV’ing and blogging is that you make friends with likeminded people across the country, many times before you even meet them in person. Such was the case with fellow FT RV’ers and bloggers Al and Ingrid. After skirting each other several times in the past 5 years our paths had yet to cross. Well, that all ended last week when they stopped by for a 4 night visit on their way east towards Wisconsin.
One little known fact about blogging couples is that one usually writes the blog and keeps up on other bloggers by reading and commenting on their posts. In our case that is me. Barb rarely reads blogs and relies on me to keep her up to date on the adventures of our fellow travelers. So hours before Al and Ingrid’s arrival she was quizzing me. “Who are these people and what do they do?” I would answer her questions so she could get an idea of who was about to arrive and set up camp in our driveway. Little did we know miles away Al was asking the same questions to Ingrid. “Who are these people and what do they do?”
What made it even more confusing is that there were two Jim’s here since the Belisle’s were still on the property. As Ingrid later described it, she referred to me as “Fishing and hunting Jim” and Jim Belisle is “Michigan Jim”
The neighbors horses posed for a couple of pictures

The other unknown when meeting a couple for the first time is whether you will have anything in common. Well no fear there with Al being an avid outdoorsman and Ingrid’s passion for photography. Check out their blog to see some of her great photos. The only downside of their visit was that Barb and I were focused on getting the windows in the house and were not able to spend as much fun time as we would have liked to with them. Ingrid did not let that stop her as she went out exploring Custer and Wind Cave Parks each day while Al and I chatted about all things outdoors while putting in windows.

Our place from across the valley
At the end of each day we relaxed and had happy hour telling tales of past adventures, places to go, things to do and future travel plans. One such tale included Barb’s doctor visit up in Rapid City this week. She was up there getting some tests done when the doctor asked her “Where did you get all these bruises?” Luckily Barb was in a good mood and explained that we were in the middle of building a house instead of blaming me for all her bruises!

How do these trees grow out of rocks?!?
Al and I got out on a 4 wheeler and a jeep ride into the National Forest and Ingrid and I got out on one photographic adventure where she shared some of her tricks and tips for taking great photos. In fact most of the photos in this post are from that outing.

Unfortunately, they cut their visit a few days short as there was rain in the forecast and they had seen pictures of our driveway after a soaking rain and wanted nothing to do with that!

On their last night here friends Phil and Rudee invited us all to see the play Sherwood; The Adventures of Robin Hood at the Black Hills Playhouse. It was something none of us would normally have done but it was a fun and entertaining night.
The Playhouse stage
The next day Al and Ingrid departed heading east towards Wisconsin and Barb and I carried on with the last of the windows in the house. Which I am happy to report…..are all in! Later that day, the rain came and made our driveway a muddy mess, I think Al and Ingrid made the right decision!
I hope the eggs hatch soon!
With the windows in, we are at a point where we can take a much needed break.

Tomorrow we are packing up the pickup camper and take it on its inaugural trip! We are going to stay in the Black Hills area and check out some of the local campgrounds and explore several of the trout streams we have wanted to fish but never seem to have the time. Stay tuned!